What is Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
Hepatocellular Carcinoma is the most common type of Liver Cancer found in Humans. This cancer is primary and differs from other “secondary” liver cancers which have spread to the liver from other organs. This is the common cause of death in people with Cirrhosis. The cancer is found more commonly among men than in women.
Also, the persons affected by the disease are usually above 50 or more. While the condition is pretty serious indeed, with proper precautions and knowledge, the damage can be minimized.
The prognosis of HCC depends on the size of Tumour, the overall health of the patient, and the stage of cancer. If caught early the disease can be cured with the aid of surgery or transplant. However, in the advanced stages, it becomes very fatal. Proper emotional support is necessary for the victims.
In this article, we will be looking at the various Hepatocellular Carcinoma causes, symptoms, and treatments which will aid you in keeping HCC at bay.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma symptoms
In the initial stages, there are no visible symptoms. However as the conditions reach further advanced stages, the following symptoms may develop.
- Heavy Fever
- Abdominal Pain
- Constant Fatigue and a general feeling of tiredness.
- Loss of sex drive.
- Pain in the joints.
- Loss of appetite and disinterest towards food.
- Pain in the upper portion of the stomach.
- Dark urine.
- Loss of weight.
- Vomiting and a feeling of nausea.
- Swelling in the belly.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma pictures
Hepatocellular Carcinoma causes
Doctors are still not certain of the exact causes of HCC but have identified what not to do to prevent the disease.
The followings list illustrates the various causes that may lead to HCC.
The most logical reason. Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day increases significantly the risk of hepatocellular cancer. So next time, keep on a tab on how much your drinking.
Hepatitis and chronic alcoholism can result in Cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver. The disease is quite critical and the liver tissues are replaced by scar tissue. The liver damage caused by cirrhosis cannot be undone. Cirrhosis increases the risk of liver cancer particularly HCC.
Hepatitis(B and C)
Both these infections are HBV and HCV virus respectively. The severity of the disease can range from a mild illness to liver cancer. Hepatitis B can be transmitted by sexual contact or through needles. Hepatitis C can be spread with the contact of the blood of an infected person.
It is observed obese individuals are at a higher risk of liver cancer. Obesity can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which paves the way for hepatocellular carcinoma. Eating healthy and staying physically active are two good ways to keep obesity at bay.
Diabetes Mellitus, in particular, doubles the odds of having Non-alcohol Fatty Liver Disease. Diabetes Mellitus is a serious condition as your own pancreas is unable to produce insulin. A liver biopsy is a good idea when blood tests for the liver are inconclusive.
A poisonous carcinogen produced by microorganisms found in decaying plants and soil. Aflatoxin is found in foodstuff which is not properly stored. When such contaminated food is processed, Aflatoxin enters the body. Aflatoxin can cause HCC and therefore you ought to be more careful when storing foods.
Iron Storage Disease
Hereditary hemochromatosis or commonly referred to as the Iron storage Disease is another potential cause for HCC. This causes the body to absorb too much iron from the food consumed. This iron is stored in the internal organs mainly liver, heart and the pancreas.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma treatment
There are treatments available, however, choose the treatment recommended by your doctor.
The usual treatment procedures include,
Here high energy rays are focused into narrow beams aimed at destroying the cancer cells. Radiation is not a pleasant experience and brings with it some side effects which include nausea, fatigue, and vomiting. Radiation can also be done by injecting radioactive particles into the artery. Hence blood supply to the tumor in the liver is cut off, effectively causing its end.
Chemotherapy or “Chemo” is the use of drugs to prevent cancer cells from multiplying by killing them off. The procedure is similar to internal radiation. Chemo drugs are inserted to the artery and hence the blood supply is cut off. However, it has serious adverse effects like a headache, fever, vomiting etc.
There are medicines to ease off the issues. Length of treatment varies from person to person and also on the doctor. Typically there are rest periods between the course of treatment to allow the patient to recover.
Using the technique of ultrasound, the doctor carefully places a needle on the Tumor. Then he injects ethanol to destroy the tumor. This treatment is done under anesthesia.
Here the tumor is destroyed by freezing it with a metal probe. The probe delivers a cold gas which destroys the cancer cells. This treatment is also accomplished under anesthesia.
Usually an advanced stage treatment, the doctor performs ‘partial hepatectomy’ which removes the affected portion of the liver. Pain and discomfort are bound to be there. People feel fatigued and tired after the treatment. Few even have diarrhea.
The last resort. You would need a liver from a person of similar stature and blood group as you. You would need to stay in the hospital for up to 3 weeks after the Transplant. The healing period can be up to a year.
In this article, we have provided you with all the necessary info regarding HCC. Prevention is the best cure and we suggest you live a balanced lifestyle with physical exercise, healthy foods, a positive attitude. That really goes a long way in keeping diseases away.